Record heat, cooling rain and a popular band named Train blessed the 18th annual Basilica Block Party Friday evening in Minneapolis.
For the first time ever, the benefit concert for the Basilica of St. Mary sold out its VIP tickets in advance. There's a one-word explanation.
"It's Train," said Cities 97 radio DJ Jason Nagel, who has attended every block party. "That's what all the e-mails and studio line [comments] are. They've had two massive crossover hits with 'Hey, Soul Sister' and 'Drive By.' And they have a legacy that goes back to 'Meet Virginia' [in 1998]."
With a sellout crowd of 16,500 at the block party, Train arrived late -- probably because an earlier-in-the-evening downpour forced a short stoppage and provided much-needed relief from the 102-degree heat. And Train left the station early -- because of lightning and another impending downpour. But in its short 65 minutes onstage, the San Francisco hitmakers proved that they have too much momentum to be derailed.
Train specializes in good-time, easy-to-sway-your-hips-to radio music. Frontman Pat Monahan and crew are crafty, borrowing top-40 tricks from some of the best -- Elton John, Billy Joel, Santana, Paul Simon, Zac Brown Band and even Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Between songs, Monahan dropped ingratiating comments about the audience and Minneapolis and, during songs, he dropped more names (Sonny & Cher, Mr. Mister, Princess Di, for starters) than a night full of rappers and more buzz words ("in it to win it") than a leadership seminar.
It was an approach that the sing-along crowd loved, especially "Save Me, San Francisco" with its country music-like catchiness, the gospelly "Calling All Angels," the peppy "Hey, Soul Sister" and the sappy "Marry Me" (yes, the couple next to me was one of several that got engaged during the slow-dance song).
Nine bands played on three block-party stages Friday. Among the noteworthy were Las Vegas' Imagine Dragons, with a booming epic pop sound that evoked Sin City hitmakers the Killers, and Seattle's the Head and the Heart, whose harmony-loving organic folk-rock evoked the Fleet Foxes (also from Seattle) with more of a campfire vibe. The male/female vocal tension enlivened the material, especially the hootenanny-evoking hit "Lost in My Mind." Violinist/singer Charity Rose Thielen welcomed her family, mentioning that Mom grew up in Roseville and they used to live in Arden Hills.
Over the years, the block party, sponsored by Cities 97, has raised more than $4 million for the restoration of the Basilica of St. Mary. About 1,000 tickets are available for Saturday's finale featuring the Avett Brothers, Lumineers and O.A.R.
Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719